ECU baseball opens season today

Published 5:00 am Friday, February 20, 2009

By By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — Stephen Batts walked around the clubhouse Wednesday afternoon with a bat in his hands. The senior and the rest of the East Carolina Pirates are anxious to start swinging those bats and begin the 2009 season.
That journey begins at 3 p.m. today with the season opener at Clark-LeClair Stadium. The Pirates (42-21 last year) welcome the Monmouth Hawks (37-16 last year) into town for a three-game series. Saturday’s game begins at 2 p.m. and Sunday’s contest is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.
ECU coach Billy Godwin, 115-70 entering his fourth year as the skipper, knows the series won’t be easy. The Hawks are predicted to win the Northeast Conference championship this season.
Monmouth posted a 4-3 win in the series opener last year. The Pirates took the next two games, 11-2 and 6-0.
The Pirates are hoping to get off to a good start, something they haven’t been able to do the last two years. ECU fell 22-5 at South Carolina in the 2008 season opener and lost 6-2 to Liberty in the 2007 opener.
ECU’s last season-opening victory came in 2006 with a 6-1 nod over Maryland.
Hoping to get the Pirates off to a fast start is sophomore All-American standout Seth Maness. The right-hander, who went 9-2 with a 3.57 ERA last year, is looking to be composed on the mound in the opener.
Junior left-hander Kyle Breese (6-2, 5.26 ERA in 2008) will start for the Hawks.
Saturday’s game pits ECU junior Chris Heston (2-5, 5.08 ERA in 2008), a college transfer from Seminole College, against Monmouth junior right-hander Ryan Buch (6-1, 3.66 ERA in 2008).
ECU junior right-hander Mike Anderson (1-1, 3.00 ERA in 2007) squares off against Monmouth sophomore righty John McDonald (0-0, 6.75 ERA in 2008) in Sunday’s series finale.
While Godwin said he wouldn’t know the specifics on his batting order until game-time, he was reasonably sure who would be starting. Jared Avchen, a junior college transfer from Seminole College, will start behind the plate.
Senior Brandon Henderson (11 HRs, 52 RBIs, .347 in 2008), who will wear No. 23 this year, will start at first base. Joining him in the infield will be senior second baseman Ryan Wood (13 HRs, 51 RBIs, .306), sophomore shortstop Dustin Harrington (4 HRs, 42 RBIs, .320) and senior third baseman Drew Schieber (2 HRs, 18 RBIs, .319).
Batts (10 HRs, 45 RBIs, .333) will start in left field, while senior Trent Ashcraft (.220) gets the nod in center and sophomore Devin Harris (.167) will start in right. Junior Kyle Roller (11 HRs, 30 RBIs, .306) will be the designated hitter.
Trent Whitehead, a sophomore and former standout with the Washington Pam Pack, will platoon with Harris in right field.
The Hawks are led at the plate by third baseman Ryan Terry (.328) and designated hitter Nick Pulsonetti (.326).
Batts is glad the Pirates will be at home to start the season. ECU’s first eight games are at Clark-LeClair Stadium.